09 January 2009

Ways of seeing

While reading Berger's Ways of seeing for another reason entirely, I found this passage, which put me in mind of the discussion with Unreal Nature (for example)about concepts of image as record before the invention of photography.

It doesn't, of course, prove or disprove anything, one way or t'other; it's just interesting.

Images were first made to conjure up the appearances of something that was absent. Gradually it became evident that an image could outlast what it represented; it then showed how something or somebody had once looked - and thus by implication how the subject had once been seen by other people. Later still the specific vision of the image-maker was also recognized as part of the record. An image became a record of how X had seen Y. This was the result of an increasing consciousness of individuality, accompanying an increasing awareness of history. It would be rash to try to date this last development precisely. But certainly in Europe such consciousness has existed since the beginning of the Renaissance.

  • John Berger (et al), Ways of seeing.1972, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. 0140216316 (most recent reissue 2008, [978]0141035796)